Ford Model 77 – July/August 2012 Cover Story
Patrick Ertel

Uncommon Flatbed 1937 Ford Model 77

The 1937 Ford Model 77 that appears on the cover of the July/August 2012 issue of Vintage Truck magazine is unique in that it doesn’t look like either the 1936 or the 1938 models. “I have an interest in the way things used to be and bought this 1937 Ford to preserve a bit of history,” said owner Todd Beck.

What else is in this issue?

Features

Departments

  • Delivery Designs – Reo Speed Wagons, Part Two
  • Chevy Talk – Chevy Therapy
  • Triple Diamond Treatise – 1962 Travelette
  • Wagon Wheels – 1963 GMC Suburban
  • Dodge Garage – 1966 Dodge Camper Special
  • Notes from the Corrosion Lab – Warps, Blasting, and More
  • Tech Tips – Float Repair
  • Skinned Knuckles – Headlights: You Light Up My Life
  • Tailgate Talk – Truck and RV Show
  • For Ford Fans – 1948 F-1

If you can't find Vintage Truck on a newsstand near you, call 800-767-5828 or visit our Gift Shop to order current or back issues. To subscribe, call 888-760-8108 or click here.


Uncommon Flatbed

1937 Ford Model 77

Patrick Ertel’s interview with Todd Beck

I grew up on a farm in Michigan in the 1980s. We had a car and, of course, a bunch of farm trucks, and I always I loved the trucks. Even now, though I don’t mind cars, given the choice I’d rather drive a truck.

When my family left the farm in 1986, I acquired a tractor, a stationary engine, and some other equipment that had been used on the old farm, but I didn’t get one of the trucks. I’ve always wanted an old truck, and in my search for one, I came across this 1937 Ford. At first, I thought of it as just a nice old truck from the ’30s, but I soon came to realize that it was more than that. Most Ford trucks retained the same look for three or more years, but the 1937 body style is unique—it doesn’t look like either the 1936 or 1938 models. It also has an unusual bed that Ford introduced in 1937.

I bought this truck from a man in Elkhart, Indiana, who had gotten it as partial payment for some heating and cooling work he’d done. When I got it, the Ford was far from complete—no glass, no headlights, and it had a brushed-on paint job.

I was able, with the help of a friend, to get it running. I drove it on the back roads a couple of times and decided it needed a total restoration. I had no idea it would take 20 years to make the Ford drivable again.

I did all the mechanical work, and my father and I painted the frame. I had the front axle rebuilt, but I still needed to find a place to bend it to get the camber right. I took some body parts to a local body shop, but after talking to the owner, I didn’t let him do the work. His plan was to paint everything and send it home with me to assemble. The right way, of course, is to fix the rust, dings, and dents on each part and assemble the body to make sure everything fits before painting. In this case that was especially important. The only parts that are original to the truck are the rear fenders, the running boards, and the hood. The cab and everything else came from different trucks from all over the country, and there was no reason to believe that they would all fit together perfectly.

I found most of the missing parts—including the NOS grille—at a swap meet in Charlotte, North Carolina. I asked a vendor there who had a lot of truck parts if he had a grille for a ’37 Ford.

“I sure do,” he said, “but it ain’t gonna be cheap.” He took me to his truck, which was full of truck grilles, and pulled out the one that is now on my truck. It was in perfect condition—and it wasn’t cheap.

When I got the truck, the bed frame was dented and the wood was gone, so I looked for a reproduction bed. I found one but didn’t have enough money to buy it at the time, so that part of the project had to wait until I saved enough money for it. That’s how I financed the whole project. I bought as many parts and paid for as much work as I could afford and then took a break to save some more money.

The bodywork was done by Mark Benjamin of Marks Body Shop in Buchanan, Michigan (269-695-0245). I have to thank Mark for his patience and his advice. Before he started, I said, “Look Mark, I can’t let you take this vehicle and give me a bill six months later. I need to set up some kind of payment plan.”
We made an agreement that he would do a certain amount of work, and then I would pay for it. At times, it just sat until I saved enough money to pay a bill. A few times, Mark caused a delay because he would get so overwhelmed from working on this project that he had to step away for a few days. It was great that he was willing to work with me like that. In the end he had the truck from late 2001 until 2009. The main thing this project has taught me is patience.

When I got the truck back from Mark, all I had to do was the electrical work, the bed wood, some assembly, and restore the hubcaps. The electrical work was pretty straightforward. The bed should have been simple, too, but the wood had swollen, which made the boards 1/8-inch wider across the bed. A friend from down the street helped trim down the boards so they would fit. The hubcaps came from a guy who was street rodding a ’37 and didn’t need them any more. After looking at original pictures of hubcaps, I realized that the “V-8” symbol isn’t supposed to be painted. I’m not sure how they did it at the factory, but I painted the whole thing and then sanded the paint off the “V-8.”

The four pieces of trim that make up the grille are stainless steel. They had a few scratches, and the finish was dull. Mark showed me how to file out the scratches and then sand and polish the metal back to a mirror finish. I have to admit I was a bit nervous about taking a file to the trim, but it came out perfect. Mark looked at the original type clips that held on the grille trim and told me that if I wanted the trim to fall off, I could go ahead and use those, but if I want the trim to stay on, we’d have to do something else. He designed a better clip and showed me how to make one; then I went home and made 19 more.

The original cab was dinged and rusted from the windows down. It was so bad that I decided I needed a different one. I got a better cab from a gentleman in Newton, Kansas. We made the deal for the cab, and he brought it as far as Kentucky, where I picked it up. I bought it sight unseen, but when I saw it, it was exactly as he had described it over the phone. The bottom of the cab was solid, but mice had built nests in the windshield header, which caused a bunch of rust. About the only good part of the original cab was the header, so I cut it out and welded it into the new cab.

I have an interest in the way things used to be and bought this 1937 Ford to preserve a bit of history. My dad got to drive it a couple of times, and he encouraged me to put hydraulic brakes on it. “It will stop on a dime,” he said.

“I don’t want to stop on a dime,” I said. “I want it to be the way it was in 1937.”

I could put a 12-volt electrical system on the truck, but I don’t want to. I like the sound of the old 6-volt starter grinding away.

Todd Beck lives in southwest Michigan and can be reached by email at becktl@sbcglobal.net.

If you can't find Vintage Truck on a newsstand near you, call 800-767-5828 or visit our Gift Shop to order current or back issues. To subscribe, call 888-760-8108 or click here.

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